- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

JULIAN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia officials are moving forward with the development of a massive surface coal mine they believe can be reshaped into up to 12,000 acres for new businesses and homes.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration announced upcoming steps Thursday at the largely reclaimed Hobet mine. The project stretching through Boone and Lincoln counties is in its early stages.

The Department of Transportation is seeking proposals to design and build a new 2.6-mile stretch of four-lane road. The department plans to award a contract in October, with construction expected to start March 2017.

Tomblin said one possible fit for the site, among others, is automotive-related companies.

Officials are seeking various federal grants.

Tomblin highlighted the project in his January State-of-the-State speech about diversifying an economy dependent on the dwindling coal industry.

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